Our article on Hungarian chess master Paul Charles Dozsa has been quite popular (although we now know the man from the meme was actually Cecil George Edwards). But regardless, it got me thinking—what are the best dishes in Hungarian cuisine?
In this list here, I’ll be looking at 5 recipes and dishes from Hungary.
1. Goulash (gulyás)
Let’s get goulash out of the way. In the realms of Hungarian cuisine, this dish is the one everyone thinks of. The name originates from gulyás, a word for “herdsmen”. It still means that but it also takes the meaning of the actual stew. There’s also gulyásleves which is a thinner soup than goulash.
Most modern recipes include tomatoes but they were nowhere to be seen in the original recipes. Meats in goulash recipes include lamb, pork, beef, and veal and a wide variety of vegetables such as onions, garlic, carrots and peppers. To quote my friend, Tom: “Goulash in a bread basket is also beautiful.”
2. Chicken paprikash (paprikás csirke/csirkepaprikás)
I love to season my meat with paprika (keep your mind out of the gutter, please) and so do the Hungarians. They love the paprika peppers and spice so much, they have two museums dedicated to them. For chicken paprikash, the meat is cooked in a roux containing paprika, then simmered in a sauce for around 40 minutes.
Fun fact: Jonathan Harker ate chicken paprikash while he travelled to Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. (And in case you didn’t know, Transylvania was part of the Hungarian Empire until the 20th century.)
It’s another meat stew. Pörkölt is similar to goulash in that it contains meat (boneless), paprika, and vegetables. But the main difference between pörkölt and goulash is the latter has more gravy and the meats can contain bones.
The most popular variant of this Hungarian dish contains beef and onion as detailed in this Daring Gourmet recipe. Pork is another popular choice, served with nokedli like the one in the Where Is My Spoon recipe.
4. Sour cherry soup (meggyleves)
Let me preface this by saying: I hate cherries. So the idea of a cold sour cherry soup is hell for me. But not for the Hungarian population so my opinion is invalid here.
Meggyleves is made with sour cherries (which come in 2 variants: Morello cherries and Amarelle cherries). It’s traditionally served as a dinner course, either as a starter, main soup or a dessert and it works best served during the summer.
Random fact: Turkey produced 187,941 tonnes of sour cherries in 2012, compared to Hungary’s 53,425 tonnes.
5. Spätzle (nokedli)
Spätzle, or nokedli, is a type of pasta made with fresh eggs, bread flour, and salt. The geographic origin of spätzle is unknown, leading to many nations claiming it as theirs.
The pasta is best known as a German delicacy but Hungarians love it and serve it with soup or you could have it with cherries in kirschspätzle.
You should also try:
- Palacsinta (a thin crêpe-like variety of pancake)
- Halászlé (a hot, spicy paprika-based fish soup)
- Főzelék (a thick Hungarian vegetable stew or soup)
- Dobosh (a Hungarian sponge cake)
- Lángos (a deep fried flatbread although my friend Tom recommends to have it at a restaurant rather than a takeaway)
Hungarian cookbooks to buy
Enjoyed all the food? Want to nose dive into the world of Hungarian cuisine? Check out the list of books below and experience Hungary without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Well, you’ll have to make the short journey from there to the kitchen but someone’s got to do it.
- Goulash Cookbook: Enjoy Delicious and Authentic Goulash Recipes and Explore Food Revolution
- Food & Cooking of Hungary
- The Hungarian Cookbook: Pleasures of Hungarian Foods and Wines
- Hungarian Cookbook
- Hungarian Cookbook: Traditional Hungarian Recipes Made Easy
- Hungarian Cuisine: Hungarian Cookbooks in English for Beginners: Volume 1 (Cookbook for Beginners)
- Hungarian Cookbook: Old World Recipes for New World Cooks